She’s romantic, she’s feminine and she’s quite rare. Could this intriguing choice catch on with modern parents?
Thanks to Annelise for suggesting Idonia as Name of the Day.
First, a confession: I cannot determine if Idonia or Idonea is closer to the original spelling. Truth told, I’m not entirely certain that I’ve landed on the name’s roots.
Most sources suggest that either spelling is a Latinized version of Idony, which, in turn, is an Anglicized version of Iõunn, a Norse goddess, sometimes also called Idun, Ydun, Idunn or Iduna.
The goddess appears in medieval collections based on earlier oral traditions. There’s a lively debate about her role. She’s sometimes shown holding apples, often considered a symbol of fertility. Others link her given name to words conveying the idea of eternal youth and immortality. And lists of spring goddesses often include her name.
Jacob Grimm linked her to the idisi, a group of warrior goddesses. (In Beowulf, Grendel’s mother was referred to as one.) This may be why her origins are sometimes given as Germanic.
Just when I thought I’d untangled the riddle, a third attribution emerged. Some suggest that the Spanish girls’ name Idonea comes from the Latin idoneus, meaning proper, suitable or fitting.
Her origins are unclear, but her sound is appealing. When those adventurous Victorians went combing through histories to dig up fresh options, a few stumbled on this name. She turns up in at least three artistic works:
- James Burnley’s Idonia and Other Poems, of 1869;
- Arthur Frederick Wallis’ Idonia: A Romance of Old London, published in 1913;
- Sir John Lavery’s portrait “Idonia in Morocco” was completed circa 1890.
Idony is sometimes listed as a “not uncommon” or “fairly common” medieval name. That might be a stretch, but the historical record shows that Idony, Idonia, Idonea and related variants were in use between the 1100s and 1300s. Novelist Peter Ackryod used the name Idonea for a character in his recent novel The Clerkenwell Tales, set in 14th century London, cementing her reputation as a medieval moniker.
A handful of more current references include:
- A male Idonia is part of the Jamaican dancehall music scene. Born Sheldon Aitana Lawrence, he took the “don” from Sheldon and came up with his snappy stage name;
- Kate Spade is currently offering a lovely strappy sandal called the Idonia for just about $198;
- The quirky Robyn Hitchcock recorded a song titled “Idonia” about a dark-haired girl he spied in the market;
- There’s an Idonia Street in London today;
- Idonia Van der Bijl sells quirky housewares in London’s Spitafields shopping district.
Overall, Idonia is an appealing choice. She has a medieval flavor and perhaps even something of an aristocratic tone. While she’s never charted in the US Top 1000, she would fit in nicely with a kindergarten class of Isabellas and Sophias.
If you’re hoping for something both feminine and rarely heard, Idonia is one to consider.